Press Release from the United Church of Christ
Joining other prominent religious leaders, the leader of the 1.3-million-member United Church of Christ today (April 20) called upon Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to distance himself from recent efforts to interject religion into the debate over federal judicial appointments.
The Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, said Frist's planned participation in an April 24 telecast to churches - sponsored by the right wing Family Research Council - "represents one more highly public and dangerous effort to divide this country by falsely accusing his opponents on the issue of Senate rules and judicial opponents of not being faithful."
A front-page story and editorial in The New York Times on April 16 underscored how Frist is equating those who support the filibuster to block judicial appointments as being the same as opposing people of faith. Thomas is one of many national religious leaders planning to send a letter to Frist on Thursday, saying, "It is simply not truthful to assert that supporting the filibuster amounts to an attack on people of faith."
"Since the election we've seen an intensifying of efforts by the religious and political right to dismiss and demean the faith and the moral commitment of those who disagree with them," Thomas told United Church News. "With all that threatens to divide Christians today, we don't need United States senators driving a wedge between us for self-serving political gain."
Sandy Sorensen of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries in Washington, D.C., said her agency is asking members of its Justice and Peace Action Network to "flood Frist's office with calls and e-mails" through use of its advocacy website <ucctakeaction.org>.
"[Frist] has moved the public dialogue into a new arena of divisiveness and mean-spiritedness where religion is being used as a weapon," Sorensen said. "It's incumbent upon us to respond when he says that people of faith in good conscience can't disagree on issues."
Thomas said it is dangerous when political leaders label differing political perspectives as unfaithful.
"The fact is that while conservative and liberal Christians disagree on many important matters," Thomas said, "they share faith in Jesus Christ, cherish the Bible as the guide for living, and care deeply for the moral values of strong families, justice for the poor, compassion for the vulnerable, and sustaining a safe environment."
Diane Masters, a member of First Congregational UCC in Fremont, Mich., said she is disturbed when politicians use faith as a divisive tool.
"I think it's very insulting," Masters said. "The Family Research Council certainly has the right to do what they wish, but to have our politicians backing them is certainly disturbing."